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Image: Accuweather. Click here to read more about how El Niño is formed.
During an El Niño event, the surface waters in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean become significantly warmer than normal which can lead to extreme weather patterns across the world but especially along the Western Pacific coast. Here at home, this means an abundance of rain and storms to California and the southwestern U.S. While these weather patterns already bring uncertainly now, as USA Today reported, a new study predicts that in the future, continued warming over the western Pacific as a result of climate change promises conditions that will trigger more extreme El Niño events.
The Science: For the study, scientists examined 33 El Niños since 1901. What they found was since the 1970s, El Niño has changed its origination from the eastern Pacific to the western Pacific causing increasingly strong El Niño events due to background warming in the western Pacific Ocean.
What Are the Risks? During particularly strong El Niño years the effects on ecosystems and people alike can be devastating: endless rain can cause deadly mudslides, corals die off as a result of warmer waters and fisheries can collapse from the shock of changing water. Damages to cities and towns can top billions of dollars. Additionally, as Science Daily described,
Past strong El Niño events have caused severe droughts in the western Pacific Islands and Australia, leading to extensive wildfires and famine, while dangerous flooding from excessive rainfall have plagued northern coasts of South America.
Why This Matters: Wetter El Niño years and dryer and hotter La Niña years can have deadly impacts for communities across the world. Additionally, they will affect poorer communities the most as they don’t have the necessary resources to prepare for extreme weather and to recover after it occurs. I (Miro) still vividly remember the 1997 El Niño in Northern California. It meant that several of my classmates couldn’t make it to school for days on end because extreme flooding turned their streets into rivers. Entire roads washed away and the heart of our local economy (viticulture) came under threat. We were lucky as we had resources to recover but many others won’t be able to sustain these intensifying weather shocks.
by Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer This March will continue to bring more severe weather to the United States. An atmospheric river event — the “Pineapple Express” — is forecast to induce a rainy season in Washington and Oregon, as well as an increased risk of avalanches in the Pacific Northwest. As the Pineapple Express […]
We feel so badly for everyone in Texas suffering through days of bitter cold, many without heat. But the people at the northern U.S. end of the polar vortex are reeling from the cold as well. Low-temperature records are being broken in the northern plains — it’s so cold there that even Siberia was warmer. […]
After snowstorms swept across the South this week, 14 states are expecting power outages, frozen roads, and dangerous conditions. Hundreds of millions will be impacted by the storm. Millions will be experiencing rolling blackouts in the coming days due to stress on the Southwest Power Pool (SPP).
Why This Matters: Although it might seem that this polar vortex is an exception to global temperature rise, research says that erratic, far-reaching polar systems like the one we’re seeing now can be directly related to warming temperatures in the Arctic.
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